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Syria says it freed 25 in exchange for nuns

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    FILE - This Wednesday, Dec. 18, 2013 file photo shows a Syrian girl weeping after receiving the measles vaccine from UNICEF nurses Nadine Houjairi, second right, and Genivieve Bashalani, right, at the U.N. refugee agency's registration center in Zahleh, in Lebanon's Bekaa Valley. An international charity organization Save Children has warned Monday, March 10, 2014 of a health care disaster in Syria with newborns dying in hospital incubators during power cuts and children having their limbs amputated for lack of alternative treatment. (AP Photo/Maya Alleruzzo, File)

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    FILE - In this Thursday, Nov. 7, 2013 file photo, veiled Syrian women wait with their children for vaccinations against polio at one of the Syrian refugee camps in the southern port city of Sidon, Lebanon. An international charity organization Save Children has warned Monday, March 10, 2014 of a health care disaster in Syria with newborns dying in hospital incubators during power cuts and children having their limbs amputated for lack of alternative treatment. (AP Photo/Mohammed Zaatari, File)

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    In this photo released by the Syrian official news agency SANA, a group of nuns, who were freed after being held by Syrian rebels, greet church officials at the Syrian border town of Jdeidat Yabous, early Monday, March. 10, 2014. Rebels in Syria freed more than a dozen Greek Orthodox nuns on Monday, ending their three-month captivity in exchange for Syrian authorities releasing dozens of female prisoners. The release of the nuns and their helpers, 16 women in all, is a rare successful prisoner-exchange deal between Syrian government authorities and the rebels seeking to overthrow the rule of President Bashar Assad. (AP Photo/SANA)

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  • APTOPIX-Mideast-Syria-70

    In this photo released by the Syrian official news agency SANA, a group of nuns who were freed after being held by rebels, greet church officials at the Syrian border town of Jdeidat Yabous, early Monday, March. 10, 2014.

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  • Mideast-Syria-Nuns-Released-1

    In this photo released by the Syrian official news agency SANA, a nun who was freed after being held by Syrian rebels, is greeted by a church official at the Syrian border town of Jdeidat Yabous, early Monday, March. 10, 2014. Rebels in Syria freed more than a dozen Greek Orthodox nuns on Monday, ending their three-month captivity in exchange for Syrian authorities releasing dozens of female prisoners. The release of the nuns and their helpers, 16 women in all, is a rare successful prisoner-exchange deal between Syrian government authorities and the rebels seeking to overthrow the rule of President Bashar Assad. (AP Photo/SANA)

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  • Mideast-Syria-Health-Care-Disaster-5

    FILE - In this Monday, May 6, 2013, file photo, Syrian refugee Um Raad, 30, from Daraa, holds her 6 day-old son, Abdullah, at the Moroccan field hospital in Zaatari refugee camp near the Syrian border, in Mafraq, Jordan. Pregnant Syrian women say they never imagined giving birth outside their beloved homeland and inside a tough desert refugee camp across the border in Jordan where they battle heat, dust and to get enough drinking water. An international charity organization Save Children has warned Monday, March 10, 2014 of a health care disaster in Syria with newborns dying in hospital incubators during power cuts and children having their limbs amputated for lack of alternative treatment. (AP Photo/Mohammad Hannon, File)

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APTOPIX-Mideast-Syria-70

In this photo released by the Syrian official news agency SANA, a group of nuns who were freed after being held by rebels, greet church officials at the Syrian border town of Jdeidat Yabous, early Monday, March. 10, 2014.

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DAMASCUS — The Syrian government says it freed only 25 prisoners in exchange for 13 Greek Orthodox nuns who had been held by al-Qaeda-linked rebels — and not 150 as was reported earlier.

Qatari and Lebanese officials, who were mediating between Damascus and the rebels holding the nuns had said 150 women prisoners were released.

Syrian Information Minister Omran al-Zoubi insists only 25 prisoners were freed as part of the deal. He spoke today on state TV and did not say if the 25 were women.

His remarks were a rare acknowledgement by President Bashar Assad’s government on its actions surrounding the internationally-brokered exchange.

Damascus typically does not comment on releases in exchange for people held by rebels.

The nuns were abducted by al-Qaeda-linked Nusra Front rebel group in December.

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